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Gonzo journalism

The "Gonzo fist," characterized by two thumbs and four fingers, was originally used in Hunter S. Thompson's 1970 campaign for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado. It has become a symbol of Thompson and Gonzo journalism as a whole.

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written subjectively, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word Gonzo was first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style. The term has since been applied to other subjective artistic endeavors.

Gonzo journalism tends to favor style over accuracy and often uses personal experiences and emotions to provide context for the topic or event being covered. It disregards the 'polished' edited product favored by newspaper media and strives for a more gritty approach. Use of quotations, sarcasm, humor, exaggeration, and profanity is common.


[edit] Origin of the term

The term "Gonzo" was first used in connection with Hunter S. Thompson by The Boston Globe magazine editor Bill Cardoso in 1970. He described Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved," which was written for the June 1970 Scanlan's Monthly, as "pure Gonzo journalism."[1] Cardoso claimed that "Gonzo" was South Boston Irish slang describing the last man standing after an all-night drinking marathon.[2] He also claimed that it was a corruption of the French Canadian word "gonzeaux," which means "shining path," although this is disputed.[3]

Another speculation is that the word may have been inspired by the 1960 hit song "Gonzo" by New Orleans rhythm and blues pianist James Booker. This last possibility seems to be supported by the 2007 oral biography of Thompson, which states that the term is taken from a song by Booker;[4] though, it does not explain why Thompson or Cardoso would have chosen the term to describe Thompson's journalism. According to a Greg Johnson biographical note on Booker,[5] the song title "Gonzo" comes from a character in a movie called The Pusher,[6] which in turn may have been inspired by a 1956 Evan Hunter novel of the same title.

[edit] Hunter S. Thompson

Thompson based his style on William Faulkner's idea that "fiction is often the best fact."[7] While the things that Thompson wrote about are basically true, he used satirical devices to drive his points home. He often wrote about recreational drugs and alcohol use which added additional subjective flair to his reporting. The term "Gonzo" has also come into (sometimes pejorative) use to describe journalism that is in the vein of Thompson's style, characterized by a drug-fueled stream of consciousness writing technique.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas followed the Mint 400 piece in 1971 and included a main character by the name of Raoul Duke, accompanied by his attorney, Dr. Gonzo. Although this book is considered a prime example of Gonzo journalism, Thompson regarded it as a failed experiment.[8] He had intended it to be an unedited record of everything he did as it happened, but he edited the book five times before publication.

Thompson would instigate events himself, often in a prankish or belligerent manner, and then document both his actions and those of others. Notoriously neglectful of deadlines, Thompson often greatly annoyed his editors because he often faxed articles late, too late to be edited but just in time to make the printers. Thompson wanted his work to be read as he wrote it, in its "true Gonzo" form. Historian Douglas Brinkley said Gonzo journalism requires virtually no rewriting and frequently uses transcribed interviews and verbatim telephone conversations.[9]

"I don't get any satisfaction out of the old traditional journalist's view: 'I just covered the story. I just gave it a balanced view,'" Thompson said in an interview for the online edition of The Atlantic. "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon."

[edit] Other authors

Thompson felt that objectivity in journalism was a myth. Gonzo journalism has now become a bona-fide style of writing that concerns itself with "telling it like it is," similar to the New Journalism of the 1960s, led primarily by Tom Wolfe and also championed by Lester Bangs, George Plimpton, Terry Southern, and John Birmingham.

[edit] Other uses

In other contexts, Gonzo has come to mean "with reckless abandon," or, more broadly, "extreme." Gonzo porn refers to pornographic films which are filmed by a participant and, as such, have eliminated fictional plot and scripted dialogue and focus on the sex act. For parallel uses of Gonzo, see What Is Gonzo?[3] One of Jim Henson's muppets, created by Dave Goelz, was named Gonzo the Great.

Gonzo marketing also sprung from his work. Christopher Locke[10] wrote a book on the subject, and a London-based youth insight agency The Youth Conspiracy pioneered the use of this in its research methodology.[11]

[edit] See also

[edit] Citations

  1. ^ Hirst 2004, p. 5.
  2. ^ Thompson 1997.
  3. ^ a b Hirst 2004.
  4. ^ Wenner 2007.
  5. ^ James Booker, by Greg Johnson, reprint from the February, 2002 BluesNotes at Cascade Blues Association
  6. ^ The Pusher at IMDB
  7. ^ Stone 1998.
  8. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Other American Stories. New York: Random House, 1996. p. 210. ISBN 0-679-60298-4
  9. ^ Thompson 2000.
  10. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Gonzo-Marketing-Winning-Through-Practices/dp/0738204080/ref=cm_lmf_tit_1/180-2523137-8541927
  11. ^ http://www.clearchannel.co.uk/content.aspx?ID=33&ParentID=1&MicrositeID=0&NewsID=9374&Page=1

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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